Crypto Wars 2.0: RHUL Students head to 3rd inter-CDT workshop in Oxford

By Andreas Haggman

The 3rd annual inter-CDT workshop took place in Oxford between 3-5 May 2017, this year with the theme ‘Crypto Wars 2.0’. Day 0 consisted of an evening icebreaker wine reception where we were warmly welcomed by Oxford CDT Director Andrew Martin. With both CDTs now at full-capacity it was great to see 40-odd students with such diverse backgrounds and interests mingle effortlessly (the liberal provision of social lubricants might also have been a contributing factor).

 

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RHUL & Oxford CDT students breaking ice on the 1st evening…

 

Day 1 begun with a scene-setting talk from RHUL’s own Keith Martin covering the history of the crypto wars, followed by Eerke Boiten from De Montfort University assessing the current state of the crypto wars in the UK. Corrinne Cath of the Oxford Internet Institute presented a case study of the work of human rights NGO ARTICLE 19 and the IETF, after which Cian Murphy from the University of Bristol rounded off the morning speaking about the legal and technological challenges to law enforcement access to encrypted communications. Reinvigorated by lunch, the afternoon consisted of talks by Frederike Kalthenuer who presented the Privacy International viewpoint, and independent consultant Lars Hilse joining us via Skype from Germany to talk about his Global Magna Carta Initiative. Rounding off Day 1 was a student-led debate on the question ‘Everything Encrypted: Utopia or Dystopia?’, moderated by Steve Hersee. The pre-debate audience poll showed a 14/3 split in favour of Utopia, giving Rob Markiewicz and Nick Moore (Dystopia) an uphill battle against Pete Beaumont and Will Seymour (Utopia). After a lively debate with plenty of audience involvement the final poll came in at 18/2 in favour of Utopia – perhaps unsurprising in a room full of cryptographers. Discussions resulting from the day’s talks continued into the wonderful evening dinner at Somerville College and beyond.

 

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RHUL Geopolitics/CDT student Steve Hersee introduces the debate

 

Day 2 was opened by Brigadier Fred Hargreaves presenting the official line from a defence and national security point of view, after which infosec veteran Alec Muffett gave an entertaining and enlightening talk on end-to-end encryption and the nature of identity. Post-lunch, our final invited speaker was Phil Garnett from the University of York who presented on crypto wars in the context of arms control, and questioning whether the wars 2.0 was any different from 1.0. The final session of the workshop was a series of 5-minute lightning talks from CDT students presenting on aspects of their research. The participants were: Thyla van der Merwe (via pre-recorded video), Katriel Cohn-Gordon, Steve Hersee, Will Seymour, Carlton Shepherd, Mary Bispham, and Ela Berners-Lee.

 

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Day 1 ends with dinner in Somerville College

 

Overall the event was a great success, and huge thanks go to the organising team for their efforts in putting it together. Although concrete answers are hard to come by in the crypto wars debate, the workshop was highly valuable in helping us explore the intricacies and nuances of this complex topic. We now look forward to the 2018 edition, with Royal Holloway assuming hosting duties.

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Job well done: now onto CDT workshop #4 at RHUL in 2018…

 

See Tweets from the workshop on the hashtag #CDTWars.

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